By Gaaden Puun, Abuja
Political tempo heightens
As the political calendar moves faster towards the 2019 presidential election, the shape of politicking for the expected major contenders is getting clearer.
Aljazirahnews gathered that top secret meetings to perfect schemes for victory are ongoing across the political landscape.
The former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar and his estranged political godson, the governor of Kaduna, Nasir el-Rufai appear particularly to be fine-tuning strategies to obtain power in 2019.
It was also learnt that the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP) has since commenced the search for a possible team to match the ruling All Progressive Congress, (APC) which is scheming its ticket around the Kaduna state governor, Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai.
In the hopes that President Muhammadu Buhari does not run for a second term in office, a political realignment is taking place between both parties.
Also, following the outbreak of the cold war between the five major stakeholders that merged into the APC- the nPDP, Congress for Progressive Change, (CPC), All Nigeria Peoples Party, (ANPP), Action Congress of Nigeria, (ACN) and the Rochas Okorochas faction of the All Grand Progressive Alliance, (APGA), all is not well with the ruling party.
Both leaders of the ‘five fingers’ seem to have grudges against the government of President Muhammadu Buhari with barely two years into its four-year tenure.
But the most pronounced group, the nPDP led by former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, may have settled to return into the PDP ahead of the 2019 polls if indications are anything to go by.
The Turakin Adamawa is said to have secretly met with top echelons of the embattled PDP and may have agreed to pick the former finance minister under President Goodluck Jonathan, Dr. Ngozi Okonji-Iweala as running mate.
The latest revelation, Aljazirahnews gathered in Abuja last week, emerged as a result of the prolonged agitation of the pro Biafra agitators and the harsh economy Nigerians are reeling under.
For the APC, It would be recalled that political analysts had argued that the need to carry the Igbo along to nail off their agitation for a separatist nation might also have led to the recent defection of the former governor of Abia state, Dr. Orji Kalu into the fold of the APC.
Kalu’s defection is seen from many quarters as ‘of no much value’ as he has issues with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC).
The APC leadership believes Kalu may be a good offer to the separatist Igbo group,Independent People of Biafra and should be allowed to run alongside el-Rufai as vice president in 2019.
This permutation is hinged on the fact that age may not be in favour of incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari, who may likely not run and the sour relationship existing between him and the APC national leader, ex-Lagos state governor, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
Buhari’s handlers have maintained consistently that Buhari should not be ruled out of the 2019 race.
With Tinubu already subtly ‘politically romancing’ Atiku, many believe that the right option for the APC is to utilize the Hausa-Fulani old traditional political allied relationship with the Ndi-Igbo for success at the polls.
However, there is another twist to the alignments, Aljazirahnews reports.
Those in support of the Imo State governor, Okorocha Okorocha as part of a possible ticket believe the latest marriage of convenience between el-Rufai and Kalu will be a huge betrayal of the governor.
Okorocha is believed to have invested heavily on the APC project more than any single Igbo leader under this dispensation.
A close source to Okorocha confided in Aljazirahnews that the APC may have a lot of thorny issues to handle with the rumour that it intends to pick Kalu as part of a possible ticket.
It may also have to grapple with the growing dissension in the South West, who feel shortchanged, the Middle Belt and the South -South elements whose leaders also feel the Buhari government has not benefitted the regions.
It was gathered that Atiku, with all this information at his fingertips, is strategizing, meeting secretly with even his former political allies and may even be considering forming a new political party as a last alternative especially with an offer by the Ahmed Markafi led PDP camp to run under its platform in 2019 on the table.
He is reported to have held secret meetings with Markafi both within and outside the country to smoothen the working agreement.
What is left is an endorsement from the larger PDP family.
Atiku’s preference for Dr. Okonji-Iweala despite her connection with Atiku’s old foe, ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo is hinged on his belief that she will bring credibility to his political aspirations.
Under the present economic reality, she is seen in many quarters as ‘the messiah’ that may bring succor to Nigerians and bring the nation out of recession.
The former minister is also seen as someone who will draw massive interest from women across the country and ensure votes come from them to boost the party’s chances at the polls. It is also seen as a possible opportunity for Nigeria to have its first female president especially with support coming from the South-south and South- east zones.
Atiku and the PDP are cashing on these permutations.
Caretaker chairman of PDP, Senator Ahmed Markafi is not alone in this thinking. The PDP governors seem to have given a tacit endorsement for the Atiku/ Okonjo-Iweala ticket.
Powerful among them are the PDP Governors’ Forum and outgoing Ondo Governor, Segun Mimiko, Rivers Governor Nyesom Wike, Ekiti Governor, Ayodele Fayose, Gombe Governor, Alhaji Hassan Dankwanbo and Taraba Governor, Arc. Darius Ishiaku who are silently all Atiku’s men for the 2019 project.
The Saraki/Tinubu nexus
A highly-placed aide from Senator Dino Melaye’s (a staunch ally of Saraki) office, confided in Aljazirahnews last week that Saraki ‘is merely in APC facially but his soul has since left the party.’
Saraki is believed to be unhappy with President Buhari and indeed his party for its tacit support towards his raw deal in the hands of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) over false asset declaration.
Saraki’s reluctance to appear in major APC public functions in recent times are all pointers to his frustration under the APC.
Those who oppose Atiku inside APC are gradually reducing.
For instance, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is already considering supporting his move to lead Nigeria in 2019.
Tinubu’s camp believes the treatment meted to the national leader of the APC is not worth his contribution.
“He brought in his resources, cash, wealth of experience, influence, people and structures to ensure victory for President Buhari and was the major pillar for the merger of the five smaller political parties to form the present APC in 2013. See how he is being treated as a nobody,’’ a peeved political associate to the APC leader told Aljazirahews.
He added: “Tinubu’s candidates both at the ministerial, ambassadorial and party primaries did not scale through. His man in Kogi, Hon. James Faleke, though he emerged as running mate to the late Prince Abubakar Audu, lost out to a Kaduna based business mogul, Alhaji Yahaya Bello as governor.
“In Ondo state, his preferred candidate was shortchanged and replaced with ex-president of the Nigeria Bar Association, NBA, Chief Rotimi Akeredolu as the APC flag bearer for the November 26th guber race. Yet the party leadership kept quiet. That is betrayal.’’
To show his anger, Tinubu it would be recalled had shied away from the campaigns of the Ondo APC candidate with reports that he would support the Alliance for Democracy, (AD) candidate, Chief Olusola Oke.
With the economy on tight ropes, Tinubu’s efforts to recoup back his huge financial investment in APC through contracts were further frustrated by Buhari’s war against corruption, Aljazirahnews learnt.
He now has a choice it appears; to woo Atiku, negotiate alliance and team up for a better political bargain even if it means sacrificing his protege, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
The ‘Big December’ project
Turaki’s political allies seem to be fast regrouping for the big project.
The likes of ex senate presidents, Senator David Mark, Dr. Iorchia Ayu, Adolphous Wabara, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim and some ex governors are said to have been contacted and would fully be mobilized to ensure massive acceptance of Atiku’s return.
A close source to Ayu who would not want his name printed, said; “Ayu who has no skeletons in cupboard will soon open up. He has been contacted ahead of the Turaki campaign but others suggested Fayose for the job. This means, Ayu will merely hold brief pending when Fayose will leave office next year.” The source disclosed.
An Atiku associate who also spoke off record explained the rationale behind the deft moves by Atiku to capture power at the center.
“He has resolved to major on and fast track on the dwindling economy. That is why he is rooting for Dr. Ngozi-Iweala. She has what it takes to re-fix the economy. Her track record and existing goodwill among international investors, policy makers at the World Bank, IMF among others is what the PDP needs to regain power from the APC whose two years has been described as wasteful by suffering Nigerians.’
The Atiku/ Okonjo- Iweala ticket Aljazirahnews gathered authoritatively, will be a subject of discourse in London in the second week of December.
Top leaders of the Turaki movement are to first meet in Dubai with chieftains of PDP and Dr. Ngozi-Iweala before proceeding to London for an informal endorsement of the project.
Turaki’s camp is also seriously courting those aggrieved as a result of exclusion in the Buhari administration.
These include, ex Benue governor, Senator George Akume, Senator Barnabas Gemade, and Senator Yerima Sani among others.
President Buhari’s ministers loyal to Atiku, Tinubu’s southwest caucus, some top government functionaries, and Saraki’s loyalists have all given their tacit endorsement.
The December meeting in UK would certainly further give shape to what Nigerians are to expect in the 2019 elections.
Copy of campaign poster of Atiku/Okonjo Iweala project below